Some comments from my life experience.
Including the tectonic shift in my life when I took my first job out of college, I have re-invented my career 3 times already. Twice by my choice, the last time by my employers choice.
The comments about age are horse hooey. What is really key is that you communicate to a potential employer that you have a solution to their problem.
They are not paying you for your degrees or credentials ! The degree serves several purposes. It is a certificate that show that you have some degree of training and hopefully education in some field of endeavor. It shows that you have enough ‘something’ to go get the degree. And it is a ticket to get past the first gate keeper.
Repeating my earlier comment - you are being hired to solve a problem, to execute some program, to improve planning and execution, etc, to do something that provide value to the organization.
You have or should have assets that are not available to the young. Maturity, wisdom, experience, work ethic, work experience. Add to that a willingness to negotiate and a laser like focus on solving your future employers problems.
You will likely have a better shot at getting something with a smaller firm. It is easier to get past the gate keepers. So much HR initial work is not done by people but by computers it is hard to get through the formulaic computerized HR processes.
A little story - A few days after 9/11 I was riffed’ from my previous employer. I casually knew the owner of a small engineering firm. We talked and made a deal. This guy is a financially tight person. We eventually settled on a salary that was half my previous job, but at that point the ‘hook was set’ and the clock was ticking.
While tempted by the prospect of hiring talent at a discount, they also knew two things. a) if did in fact re-invent my career my street value would go way up and the threat of me eventually leaving would exist, and b) they would have to meet the challenge matching the street price.
In the meantime they would potentially get some work done at a discount, I would have no gaps in employment, etc… There are a lot of other factors such has willingness to move, what the kids are up to, etc.
But it is super important to stay busy and network. And seriously to that point - volunteering intensely in an organization like FIRST or some other passion is a great thing to help close the resume gap. And you can learn a lot of other stuff and meet other people on the way.
EPILOGUE: I planned to stay with my current employer only two years but I’m now pushing ten. A long long long time ago by salary got fixed, and I have great flexibility in my work schedule which is convenient for my volunteering with FIRST and my FRC / FTC / Inventeam. Focus on bring value to the employer and the rest falls into line.